How “Gran Turismo Sophy” Works in Practice: More on Polyphony Digital and Sony AI’s New Technology

Gran Turismo Sophy, a new artificial intelligence driving system that will debut in Gran Turismo 7, was recently presented by Polyphony Digital. The system was created in partnership with a 25-person team at Sony AI, and it makes use of the most recent advances in machine learning. The team’s findings were published in Nature, and GT Sophy was pitted against (and defeated!) some of the world’s top Gran Turismo drivers during a live event in Tokyo last year.

The disclosure of GT Sophy, on the other hand, generated nearly as many questions as it answered. What precisely is the technology’s operation? How will it be incorporated into GT7, and what limits will it have?

We reviewed the Nature journal and spoke with Kazunori Yamauchi, creator of the Gran Turismo series, and Peter Wurman, Director of Sony AI America, in an exclusive interview to help address all of these issues. Here’s what we discovered.

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How Does Sophy Work?

Sophy perceives Gran Turismo’s virtual world as a static map, with the left, right, and center lines specified as 3D points. The track ahead of Sophy is split into 60 evenly spaced segments, with the length of each section dynamically computed by the car’s speed. At any given time, each segment represents about the next 6 seconds of travel.

Sophy may also see information about what the automobile is doing in its surroundings, such as three-dimensional velocity, angular velocity, acceleration, the weight on each tire, and tire-slip angles. It is also aware of the car’s movement down the track, the track surface’s inclination, and the car’s alignment to the track’s centerline and edges ahead.

Sophy’s controls are limited to acceleration, braking, and left/right steering inputs. It can only change these inputs at a rate of 10Hz, or approximately every 100 milliseconds. It does not have access to gear changing, traction control, brake balancing, or any of the other characteristics that human gamers do.

Sophy is given certain environmental factors and restricted inputs, and it then goes to work. It drives the track repeatedly using powerful “machine learning” methods. It is “rewarded” numerically if it completes the track in the shortest amount of time, and “punished” mathematically if it collides with the barriers, other vehicles, or drives out of boundaries.

“GT Sophy was taught using reinforcement learning,” Sony AI America head Peter Wurman revealed. We ran the agent through a variety of racing scenarios with a variety of opponents to ensure it understood how to act in competitive racing circumstances. It was able to learn how to react to other automobiles after enough practice and trial and error. There was a narrow line between being aggressive enough to maintain your own driving line and being overly aggressive and creating accidents and receiving penalties.”

Sophy accomplishes all of this in real-time, using genuine PlayStation 4s running a modified version of Gran Turismo Sport that reports the necessary positional data and receives control inputs via a network connection. Sophy’s programming is run by servers that connect with the PlayStations via the network. Sophy manages 20 automobiles on the track at the same time to assist speed up the procedure. The findings are sent into servers equipped with NVIDIA V100 or A100 processors, which are server-grade GPUs intended to process AI and machine learning data.

It’s worth noting that this kind of computer power is only required to “make” Sophy, not to run it. The machine learning method eventually yields “models” that can be run on less powerful hardware.

What Makes Sophy Unique

In racing games, AI has long been a “black box.” How it works is rarely addressed by game developers, despite the fact that it is a crucial aspect of racing games that all players interact with. We were keen to learn more about how AI has previously functioned in Gran Turismo and what makes Sophy unique.

As Kazunori Yamauchi revealed to us, the machine learning approach offers Sophy more behavioral rules than human programmers could potentially develop, but that strategy has its own downsides.

How Will Sophy Appear in Gran Turismo 7?

Although Sophy has been under development for several years utilizing Gran Turismo Sport, the technology will make its debut in Gran Turismo 7 in a future release. Kazunori Yamauchi’s statement was short on facts, so we were keen to question him about it.

Sophy is still gaining knowledge.

We were eager to learn more about Sophy’s restrictions as soon as it was unveiled. The Sony AI team is very aware of how Sophy may be improved, and the technology itself is still in the works.

Sophy, for example, is now trained on certain courses in specific conditions, but the team anticipates that the technology will be able to adapt. “These GT Sophy variants were built for certain car-track pairings,” Wurman stated. “Part of our future effort will be to improve the agent’s ability to drive as well with modifications to the car’s performance.” This version of GT Sophy was also not trained for environmental fluctuations, but we anticipate that the approaches will still perform under those settings.”

As Sophy made her debut as a super-human driver capable of overcoming the world’s finest Gran Turismo players, doubts and worries arose concerning its capacity to adapt to less competitive human drivers.

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